Quaresimale (Almond Biscotti)
About 20 years ago, I had a little antique shop in a NJ town that had a lot of Southern Italian immigrants. I swear you could smell garlic cooking when you parked your car in front of the shop.
There was this little Italian Bakery a few doors down, where older men would watch soccer and drink espresso. They only sold a few types of cookies, and these "quaresimale" were their specialty.
I brought a box home weekly, I loved them so much.
What are quaresimale? Think biscotti, traditionally made for lent, made without butter or fat. Though they sold them all year long. Some people call them "cantucci".
They are made with almonds and have a sort of chew to the center.
I found a recipe for them in Rosetta Costantino's book Southern Italian Desserts, and I knew I had to try them at home.
They came out just like I remembered them. Fragrant, crunchy and chewy at the same time.
I am not a cookie baker, as you know, but biscotti is always welcome.
Here is Rosetta's recipe:
2 cups of good quality, fresh almonds (I use blanched almonds with skins)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
2 tbsp minced candied orange peel (I mail order mine here from Sicily!!!, so good!)
finely grated zest of a lemon or orange
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 large egg (separated)
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet w/ parchment paper or a Silpat.
Pulse the almonds in a food processor only until they are chopped, like 2 or 3 pulses only. You don't want the almonds too fine.
Add the chopped almonds to a bowl with the sugar, flour, orange peel, zest and cinnamon. Stir with a fork.
Whisk the egg white until foamy (saving the yolk for the egg wash).
*Note: the second time I made these, my batter would not come together, so I added in an extra egg white.
Make a well in the center and pour the egg white into the bowl and combine until you the batter comes together (you can use your hands). The batter will be sticky and wet.
Lay the dough out on the baking sheet covered with parchment paper, (or better yet, a silpat) and make 2 flattish rectangle logs with the dough about 3/4" thick (it's ok to wet your hands while forming the logs).
Mix the egg yolk with some water and brush this wash on top of the logs.
Bake 25 minutes, rotating the sheet half way thru. Let rest on the pan for 15 minutes.
With a sharp knife, cut the logs into slices and turn them onto their sides.
Now you are going to toast them again to dry them (hence the name "biscotti", meaning "twice baked").
I baked mine only on one side for an additional 5 minutes and then transferred to a cooling rack.
I cut my cookies in half while they were still warm, so they were more bite size.
These stay one week stored in a cookie tin, but these didn't make it past day 3.
Fantastic with a cup of espresso.
Food memories are the best! Can't wait to make them again.